By Adryan Roane Ritter – The thermometer reads -1 degrees. With wind chill it feels like -24. But that didn't freeze anything up for the Snowboard Superpipe Preliminaries today at Breckenridge, Colorado. Riders braved frostbitten toes and fingers to give it their all in hopes of making it into the unprecedented field that will go toe-to-toe in tomorrow afternoon's Winter Dew Tour Snowboard Superpipe Finals. In spite of the arctic conditions, what went down today was unexpected and unprecedented; there was blood, there were guts, and in the end, there were a couple riders who stood out above the rest to claim the glory: Hannah Teter from the women, and in the men’s field, none other than Shaun White, winner of yesterday's Slopestyle Finals.
First run brought forth near perfection from the Men with very few falls. The typical school of thought from the riders in a best of two run format is to lace a strong first run- sticking with the tricks that are in the bag and don't pose the threat of mistake. An abundance of 7's, 9's and a handful of 10's peppered the runs, with a few standout tricks such as Elijah Teter's switch method, Zach Black's switch backside 720 and Luke Mitrani's switch double-back flip at the bottom of the pipe. The fans were left with only a taste of what was to come. Now that the competitors knew what tricks were in the bag and who was capable of what, the second run was where the heavy artillery came out.
Danny Davis took on an early lead with his first run of the day, dropping in for a frontside 900 to a backside 540 to a frontside 720 into a cab 900 and finished out with a switch back 720 corked to perfection. Davis's first run score held as his highest that day, and, with a 94.50, he was able to end in the third-place position headed into tomorrow's Final.
It wasn't long before Danny Kass took to the stage, and in an-almost-too-relaxed manner he dropped for his first run with a frontside 720 to a cab 1080 into a frontside 900 to backside 900 combo and finishing out his run strong with a corked frontside 540 grab complete with a heaping portion of a Roast Beef grab (one of this writer's favorite grabs). The run was enough to produce a 94.75 out of the judges and earn Mr. Kass the second-place position going into the Final.
The man of the hour though (or should we say the man of the Winter Dew Tour), the one everyone in the crowd undoubtedly risked the -24 degree wind chill to watch ride today, was Shaun White. And in true White fashion he did not disappoint. Shaun's first run was by far good enough to earn him one of the top spots in Finals- with the undisputed highest airs of the day and steezy frontside alley-oop rodeo snuck on the end of the run- but it was Shaun's last run that left jaws gaping and won him the lead spot for the Superpipe Finals.
Dropping in to the tunes of Led Zepplin, Shaun lifted into his first hit with perhaps one of the loftiest alley-oop backside rodeo's ever witnessed and immediately set up for another invert, a McTwist, on the opposing wall and high above the heads of his fans. He then combo'd into a front 1080 to cab 700 to frontside 900- and he had no shame claiming the run in the finish arena. The stunning run earned Shaun an almost untouchable score of 96.75.
Besides the breathtaking runs braved by the men who will move on to participate in the Superpipe Finals tomorrow afternoon, it may be worth the mention of the rider who most moved the crowd today (and is, so to speak, the "blood and guts" side of today's story). Torstein Horgmo, a Norwegian rider quickly becoming a household name, dropped into his first run, riding strong until one of his last hits. Returning to the pipe from a lofty air, Torstein caught his edge on the lip and slammed to flat-bottom. Torstein was helped out of the pipe by his friends and fellow competitors, and held his head up high despite the bloodied head wound he received and how visibly shaken he was.
No one, not his team managers, nor the judges, nor the crowd, was expecting Torstein (after medics cleaned his head and bandaged him), to appear at the top of the pipe for his second run. He dropped in lightly and threw down a playful line of slashes and frontside airs. Although Torstein won't make it to the Finals he did attest to the true strength and endurance of these world-class athletes.
Out of the 15 Women who made it to the Superpipe Preliminaries today, it was anyone's guess as to who would make it to the coveted top six spots for tomorrow afternoon's Final. In the end, it was Hannah Teter who boosted over the other ladies to lead the pack that will take center stage at tomorrow's Superpipe Final.
The 15 darlings of snowboarding braved the -24 degree wind chill and dropped into the pristine pipe for first run. Hannah Teter held it together, and her standout amplitude and solid spins quickly gained her the lead. Gretchen Bleiler and Kelly Clark went head-to-head and battled it out- Gretchen with her signature first-hit cripplers and Kelly with her own signature big airs and lofty backside 540. The two tied for second place as they went into second run, creating an added bonus of amicable competition between the long-time friends.
Hannah Teter dropped into her second run with a firm lead and little to worry about, but pushed it nonetheless with big, smooth, clean tricks, including a frontside 540 and a 3-to-3 combo, which earned her a higher score of 96.75. While we totally dig Hannah's fine polish, we're hoping she pulls out one of those 9s we know she's got in tomorrow's Pipe Final. Gretchen and Kelly each entered their second runs with hopes of besting their score, but after a bobble from Gretchen on her crippler, it was Kelly who upped the ante with 15-foot airs, moving herself into second place with a score of 95.75. Gretchen's first run score of 83.75 was enough to keep her in the third place position going into Finals. Kjersti Buaas, Holly Crawford, and Elena Hight all were able to throw down solid runs as well to keep them in the six women final as well.
Check back tomorrow for coverage from what is sure to be an exciting competition at the Men's and Women’s Snowboarding Superpipe Final.
Women's Snowboard Superpipe Prelims
1) Hannah Teter – 96.75
2) Kelly Clark – 95.75
3) Gretchen Bleiler – 83.75
4) Kjersti Østgaard Buaas – 80.00
5) Holly Crawford – 78.75
SNOWBOARD SUPERPIPE MEN’S PRELIMS
1) Shaun White – 96.75
2) Danny Davis – 94.75
3) Danny Kass – 94.50
4) Steve Fisher – 93.25
5) Antti Autti – 90.50
6) Louie Vito – 90.25
7) Greg Bretz – 87.50
8) Elijah Teter – 86.75
9) Brad Martin – 85.00
10) Janne Korpi – 84.75